House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Christian Broadcast Network earlier this week that the House GOP’s budget, which he wrote, was driven by his Catholic faith. “A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,” Ryan said, and Catholic principles are what led him to cut programs for the poor so as to keep people from becoming “dependent on government.”
As ThinkProgress noted Tuesday, Ryan’s budget seems to ignore Catholic social teaching that calls for protecting the poor and improving access to food, jobs, health care, housing, and the social safety net. And now religious leaders are making the same case. The founder of the PICO National Network, the largest national coalition of religious congregations, slammed Ryan’s claim of adherence to Catholic teaching as “the height of hypocrisy” in a release circulated Wednesday:
“It’s the height of hypocrisy for Rep. Ryan to claim that his approach to the budget is shaped by Catholic teaching and values,” said Fr. John Baumann, S.J., founder of PICO National Network. […] “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”
“By these measures,” the release says, “the Ryan budget is a severe failure,” noting that it cuts Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and “other programs that help vulnerable working families make it through tough times and live better lives,” while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Overall, 62 percent of Ryan’s budget cuts come from programs that benefit the poor. “The mission of the Church is to ‘bring good news to the poor’ and to protect the vulnerable, not to justify the impoverishment of the very young, the very old and the sick in order to enrich the wealthy,” the release says.
This isn’t the first time religious leaders have criticized the House GOP budget. When Ryan released the budget in March, Bishop Gene Robinson called it an “immoral disaster” that “robs the poor,” and Father Thomas Kelly, a constituent of Ryan’s, said he was “outraged” that Ryan defended the budget “on moral grounds.” Last year’s Ryan budget faced similar criticism, as religious leaders blasted it for adhering more closely to the policies of anti-religion, anti-government author Ayn Rand than to the teachings of the Bible.